Archive for July, 2010

Doctrine is Heaven, Life is Earth

July 31st, 2010 1 comment

Doctrine is heaven; life is earth. In life there is sin, error, uncleanness, and misery, mixed, as the saying goes, “with vinegar.” Here love should condone, tolerate, be deceived, trust, hope, and endure all things (1 Cor. 13:7); here the forgiveness of sins should have complete sway, provided that sin and error are not defended. But just as there is no error in doctrine, so there is no need for any forgiveness of sins. Therefore there is no comparison at all between doctrine and life. “One dot” of doctrine is worth more than “heaven and earth” (Matt. 5:18); therefore we do not permit the slightest offense against it. But we can be lenient toward errors of life. For we, too, err daily in our life and conduct; so do all the saints, as they earnestly confess in the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure; we have all the articles of faith solidly established in Sacred Scripture. The devil would dearly love to corrupt and overthrow these; that is why he attacks us so cleverly with this specious argument about not offending against love and the harmony among the churches.

Martin Luther, American Edition of Luther’s Works, Vol. 27.

Categories: Martin Luther Quotes

Commemoration of Robert Barnes: Confessor and Martyr

July 30th, 2010 1 comment

We pray:
Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today we commemorate Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr. Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus.”

Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand,
A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
On earth they wept through bitte years;
Now God has wiped away their tears,
Transformed their strife
To heav’nly life,
And freed them from their fears.
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heavenly banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord,
At festive board,
Himself is host and guest. — LSB 676:2

Every Attempt to Create an Ideal Church Produces Only a Church of Pharisees

July 27th, 2010 3 comments

Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia, “Where Christ is, there is the church”. With this saying one of the oldest church fathers spoke of the mystery of the church. The saying also sums up Luther’s faith* in the church. It is not the power of our faith, nor the holiness of our life that constitutes the church, but rather that “Where Christ is, there is the church”. When the church is called a holy people, a communion of saints, it is not to be understood in the way it has often been understood in the history of the church: “the church should be a holy people, therefore only the holy shall belong to her. Away with all the unholy! The honour of Christ demands it!” When the worst of sinners must be excluded from the fellowship, one must then begin to classify sins in order to determine which ones lead to exclusion. How often has not that been attempted, both in the past and more recently. How imposing was the strictness of the ancient church, when people sought to create a holy and pure church (as also happens now). Or consider the Donatists, who demanded that at least the clergy should be free of mortal sin. Whenever the attempt has been made to create an ideal church, the end result has always been bitter diappointment. The community of saints turns into a community of Pharisees.”

— Hermann Sasse

*”Faith” in the sense that the church is an article of faith; see the Augsburg Confession, Articles VII & VIII – M.H.

Categories: Hermann Sasse

Gay Lutheran Pastors to Be Placed on ELCA Clergy Roster

July 26th, 2010 11 comments

No big surprises here, but it is still sad and tragic that this is happening. In light of the decisions by the ELCA at their last Churchwide Assembly, a number of pastors who had been kept off their clergy roster, are now being placed back on it, including one who describes herself as a “transgendered lesbian.” Here is a link to the Associated Press story. Here is a snippet from the story:

Rohrer, who is transgender and a lesbian, was ordained by four congregations in San Francisco in 2006, but could not join the ELCA roster until the denomination’s national assembly approved the new policy in August.

“I didn’t really believe the policy was going to change as quickly as it did,” she said.

Rohrer said she is hopeful Sunday’s service will be a “symbol” to young people that the Lutheran church is working toward becoming more welcoming of people of all different backgrounds.

Jeff Johnson, another one of the pastors who will be added to the roster, said the ELCA’s position for years of not accepting the choice of some congregations to ordain gay clergy was painful and disappointing.

“The actions the church is taking on Sunday affirms the decisions of those congregations,” Johnson, pastor of the University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, said. “The church is respecting our family, our partners, the choices we’re making.”

The Illness that Threatens the Lutheran Church

July 26th, 2010 2 comments

“A single illness threatens the Lutheran Churches of the world. It is the very secularization of the church itself. If 25 years ago the secularization of culture was recognized as the great illness of the time, then it is soberly to be asserted today that secularism is now the illness of the church. It is gripping to see that, in order to fulfill the missiological goal of calling the peoples of the west back to the Christian faith, the church itself must first be turned back to this faith. “Sweden’s people are God’ people.” That was the solution a generation ago. Today the question is to what extent the Church of Sweden is still the church of God? And so it is in all nations. Great missionary endeavors and evangelization efforts will still be carried out, but it is precisely the most serious evangelists who are coming to the conviction that the gospel preaching church must be the first object of their evangelization. This understanding was already once given as a gift to German evangelical churchdom. The consequence of the theology of Karl Barth in the time of his great influence in the first half of the 1930′s was based upon this recognition. That was the meaning of his struggle against Dibelius and his “Century of the Church.” That was the most profound power of the “Confessing Churches” of all persuasions in Germany, however they may have differed from each other as Lutherans, Reformed, or United [Churches]. That was really the renewal of the Reformation; for Reformation is indeed the repentance of the church.”

From The De-Confessionalization of Lutheranism?
Letters to Lutheran Pastors No. 22, New Year 1952
Trans. by Rev. Matthew Harrison
Available on-line here.
Thanks to the blog “What Sasse Says” for this quote.

Note – Sasse wrote these words almost half a century ago. What would he say today when almost everywhere the Lutheran Church has lost its inner spiritual power and in some places has imported secular methodologies into its mission and evangelism ‘programs’? The call to repentance is perhaps more relevant and urgent now than when Sasse urged it upon the church of the 1950s.

Categories: Hermann Sasse

Communion Going to the Dogs: It was Neat and Made Everyone Smile

July 24th, 2010 18 comments

What will those Anglicans think of next?

Here’s the story of how a dog received the Sacrament in an Anglican parish recently:–can-a-dog-receive-communion

Here’s a snippet:

“In my opinion, Christ would have thought it was neat. It was just being human. And it made everyone smile.”

Your Church May Not Be a Church If . . .

July 24th, 2010 8 comments

A thought-provoking post from “Gospel-Driven Church” blog. I think this is spot-on true. What do you think?

Your Church May Not be A Church If . . .

You rarely, if ever, hear the word “sin” there.

When you do hear the word “sin,” it is only only briefly mentioned, or redefined as “mistakes.”

You can’t remember when you last heard the name of Jesus in a message.

The Easter message isn’t about the resurrection but “new opportunities” in your life or turning over a new leaf.

On patriotic holiday weekends, the message is about how great America is.

On the other weekends, the message is about how great you are.

There are more videos than prayers.

People don’t sing during “worship,” but watch.

The pastors’ chief responsibilities are things foreign to Scripture.

There is more money budgeted for advertising than for mission.

The majority of the small groups are oriented around sports or leisure, not study or service.

You always feel comfortable there.

Church membership just appears to be a recruiting system for volunteers.

You only see other church people on Sunday mornings at church.

WARNING: If your church meets one or more of these, it might be a spiritual pep rally, a religious performance center, a Christian social club, or something else entirely, but it is probably not, biblically speaking, a gathering of the Church.

Hot Air Preaching

July 23rd, 2010 Comments off

My dear friends, the reason unbelieving preachers are nearly always in control in the “Lutheran” congregations of our former home country Germany is unquestionably this: the sermons of the “Christian” preachers are only hot air. Unbelievers are increasing in the congregations about as fast as the “Christian” preachers are increasing – of whom there are considerably more now that when I was young. Why do those preachers not accomplish anything? Oh, would to God that these dear men had the humility to sit at Luther’s feet and study his postils! they would learn how to preach with great effectiveness. For – when preached as it should be – the Word of God never returns empty. May God help you in your future ministry not to become aimless prattlers. That way you would not have to complain that you accomplish so little. And were you to become aimless prattlers, you would have only yourselves to blame because you did not have a definite goal when preparing your sermons and because you did not reflect that “these are the particular people to whom I want to drive home a lesson – not this or that person whom I am going to name specifically, but persons whose condition I know to be such and such.” However, while it is important that sermons need a specific goal, it is equally important that your aim be the right one. If you do not aim properly, your preaching will be useless – regardless of whether you preach Law or Gospel.

— C.F.W. Walther
Law and Gospel (CPH: 2010), p. 112
Quoted by M.C. Harrison on his blog
Categories: Uncategorized

The De-Confessionalization of Lutheranism

July 23rd, 2010 1 comment

In light of the LWF’s meeeting in Stuttgart this month, these thoughts from Hermann Sasse are eerily and dramatically prophetic:

Dear Brothers in the Office!

Three years have passed since the first of these letters came into your hands. That letter sought to depict, in brief strokes, the situation faced by the Lutheran Churches as it made note of the two-fold tendency in the most recent history of our church: a strong external ascendancy of “Lutheranism,” which is accompanied by a threatening diminution of the dogmatic-confessional substance. Most of you will agree with me that the developments of the past three years have corroborated this viewpoint. It is to be feared that the meeting of the Lutheran World Federation in Hannover will not contradict this view. How pleased would we all be, all of us who are so very concerned for the future of our church, if this meeting would prove us wrong, if it shall have revealed something of an ascendancy of the inner spiritual life of the church, of a renewal of the old faithfulness to the confession of the eternal truth, which once found a home in Lower Saxony. But from what one reads in Lutherischen Rundschau of the preparations in Hanover it appears to be much like the massive marches and manipulating demonstrations which the evangelical churches of Germany inherited from the Third Reich, which satisfy a deep psychological need of modern masses. There is no doubt hat the Hannover session of the Lutheran World Federation will be just as beautiful and enchanting as the Berlin Kirchentag of the EkiD and as the great royal nuptial celebrations of Hannover in previous years. The very same men who in Berlin were so enthused over the unity of the Evangelical Church in German [EkiD] (“We are still brothers!”), will be enthused in Hannover over the Lutheran Church. And they will proudly allow the church banners to stream, among which also is the banner of the LWF with Luther’s seal, just as at royal weddings the old Hannoverian flags suddenly fluttered again and the old uniforms of the Hannoverian army of 1866 experienced a remarkable resurrection. What a testimony of loyalty that was! Only it was forgotten that it was all merely a beautiful show [see note -compiler]. The princes no longer rule. The flag of a state was displayed which has long since gone under. The people passionately celebrated a loyalty, which had long since been violated. That is the genius loci of Hannover. Should it also rule the session of the Lutheran World Federation in August? If not, then it is time to exorcise it. We theologians in any case will remain sober and guard ourselves from the enthusiasm which in every form is the mortal enemy of the true faith. With Lutheran sobriety, which means for us at the same time with constant faith in the reality of the Church of God, we desire to seek to understand the situation of Lutheranism regarding a few essential points at the beginning of this fateful year.

— Hermann Sasse

From Letters to Lutheran pastors No. 22: ‘The De-Confessionalisation of Lutheranism?’(1952); trans. by Rev Matthew Harrison and available in full here:

Compiler’s Note – Sasse must have had in mind the nuptial celebrations of 5th September, 1951, when Prince Ernest Augustus of the House of Hanover married Princess Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The wedding was attended by many royal figures, including the heads of the houses of Saxony, Hesse, Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, and Baden, all of whom had long since been deposed from their thrones. The wedding was followed with a reception at Herrenhausen, the only part of Hanover’s former palace still intact in the aftermath of World War II. Sasse suggests that the essential meaninglessness of the pomp surrounding such celebrations is comparable to that which surrounds great ecumenical gatherings like the Berlin Kirchentag and LWF Assemblies. It is something which theologians have a responsibility to resist with ‘Lutheran sobriety’.

Bo Giertz on The Three Great Heritages of the Church

July 22nd, 2010 1 comment

From the Glosses from an Old Manse blog site: “If we wish to know what true Christianity means, how the church of Christ lives and works, and how a soul is saved, we must seek to understand three great heritages of the church. We must go back first to the days of the apostles, martyrs and church fathers; then we must ponder the message of the Reformers; and lastly, bring to remembrance the blessed spiritual leaders in the last century through whom God gave the church great awakenings from which all future generations may learn.

“This is the threefold heritage of which we have been made stewards and which is to be made a living possession. It is ours to preserve and to pass on. We are to learn lessons from the past that are to be a vital force in the present. It is the risen and living Lord who wrought all this in the past. To hold fast the old heritage is to abide in Him. For then it is at the same time something new, renewed by the Resurrected Christ Himself. In the measure that we live by the resources which built the church in days of old, will Christ give us clear instruction for the way we must walk today.

“This, then, is our program: to learn of the past that we may be prepared meet the coming day; to immerse ourselves so deeply in the great life stream of the church that we may be equipped to proclaim the Word of God in a new age, and to modern men and women, and to live His life in the manner which the new century in the history of the church demands.”

From the Pastoral Letter of Bishop Bo Giertz to the Diocese of Gothenburg in the Church of Sweden, 1949 (ET by C.A. Nelson published as ‘Liturgy & Spiritual Awakening’).

Picture: A young Bo Giertz preaching (courtesy

Note the order of the questions Giertz raises in his first sentence – ‘what true Christianity means’ leads to ‘how the church of Christ lives and works’, which leads on to ‘how the individual soul is saved’. One can glimpse here already at the beginning of this programmatic address to his diocese how Giertz effortlessly combined the typical Swedish high-church ‘catholic’ concern for churchliness and order with the once also typically Swedish low-church ‘evangelical’ concern for times of awakening (the more usual English term here might be ‘revival’, although it is tainted by misuse) and personal salvation. That Giertz seems to be a rare 20th century embodiment of these traditions perhaps only indicates how far the church had fallen from health at the time.

Without the concern for personal salvation, ‘high-churchism’ tends towards a preoccupation with the outward form of church life which comes to present only a mask of piety to the world, while without the concern for churchliness, evangelicalism tends towards becoming sectarian and individualistic, wreaking havoc upon the body-life of the church. The health of the church in any age surely depends on keeping the current of its life alternating between these two polarities in a creative and positive manner; when the current runs in only one direction for a lengthy period of time, impoverishment of the church’s life results.

The dissolution of Anglicanism before our very eyes is the outcome, in my view, of the failure to keep the catholic and evangelical currents of that church’s life in positive contact, while the future of the Lutheran Church, humanly speaking, depends on avoiding that mistake.

Categories: Christian Life

Hopeful Optimism and Unhelpful Behaviors: A Response to the ACELC

July 21st, 2010 13 comments

Pastor Larry Peters said this better than I could, so I won’t even try. He offers an excellent commentary on the mailing a small little group of self-appointed “amonishers” of the Missouri Synod has sent throughout the Synod, announcing the formation of what is, effectively, a new church, call it whatever you want, but they are setting up a “synod within the synod.” This is precisely not the kind of behavior we need. Here is what Pastor Peters had to say.

Many, including myself, have offered a cautious and hopeful optimism about the future of the LCMS.  On one level we can rejoice that we are talking more honest theology than we have talked for a long time.  But this is not a momentary conversation.  It is a dialog for the long haul.  Conversation that has real effect is honest, it is regular, and it is built upon trust.  The people who were elected are good people but the Synodical President has not and will not be installed into office until September 11, 2010.  Until that time it is my hope and prayer that the conversation before, during, and after the Synod Convention will continue on every level of our church body.

With that conversation, we would do well to temper the irrational exuberance of some with a patient view toward a long term effort to rebuild consensus, to keep the conversation about theology and not personality, to prioritize the subjects of this conversation, and to keep the conversation positive AND pointed.  That said, some are not so sure that they are willing to wait, that the changes wrought in Houston this past week will come fast enough or go far enough.  I am concerned about this because this is the very thing that can and has derailed the good efforts of some in the past.  They and we need to be careful.

Some have determined to couch their hopeful optimism with some unhelpful pragmatism.  The organizing has continued following the convention and now one group is proposing an association of like minded confessing congregations which is self-described as a “loving challenge to the LCMS.”  They are planning a “constituting convention” and have sent a fraternal letter of admonition to every LCMS congregation (though we have not received one), and they speak as an action group and not a discussion group.  If you exchanged the acronyms you might think this was formed by folks from within the ELCA to counter the controversial and radical actions taken nearly a year ago at their CWA.  But it is not.  It is a largely lay group from within Missouri.

I guess this is where my concern comes… Those who tried to suggest that the election of Matt Harrison was about a purge or housecleaning of Missouri were told over and over again that this is not the way of real change that endures — rather theological consensus borne of honest, substantial, and serious theological conversation.  Yet some of those who are speaking for this new group (unofficially since it is not yet constituted), sound as if the goal is more removal of those who disagree than changing minds through common confession.

Anyone who knows Matt Harrison’s career knows that he is a theologian, a historian, a pastor, an administrator, and a leader.  He has the gravitas to argue theology with just about anyone at anytime and he has a wit and winsome personality to frame this debate in fraternal terms.  So what is up with those who are presenting their loving challenge to the LCMS — are we in for a bad cop good cop routine… or are some not content to wait for the conversation to even begin… or are some who were for his election not so sure they can count on him?  Whatever the answer to this, I think it might be pragmatic to do this but not beneficial to the Church as a whole and the opportunity given by solid election results.  So, if anybody is listening, I say, step back and wait a bit…

I am not against organizing, or studying the Confessions, or challenging practices inconsistent with the Confessions… but let’s leave the structures for later and hold off on the shots across the bow… Not everything that is possible is beneficial… I think I read that somewhere….

Categories: Lutheranism

The Only Task of Christian Theology

July 21st, 2010 1 comment

Kyrios Jesous Christos, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” This is the original confession of the church. With it the Christian faith once entered world history. To understand the sense of this confession ever more deeply is the great, yes, basically the only task of all Christian theology. To repeat this confession, to speak it in ever new forms, to translate it into the language of all times and peoples, to protect it against misunderstandings and reinterpretations, and to understand its meaning for all areas of life—that is the task of all confession building within Christendom. No later confession of the church can and wants to be anything else than a renewal of the original confession to Jesus as Christ and Lord. This is true of the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the confessional writings of the reformation, and any confession in which the Christendom of the future may want to speak its faith. As this confession stood at the beginning of the church’s history, so it will stand at its end. Then will be fulfilled that great word of the apostle: “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10f).

–Herman Sasse, “Jesus Christ Is Lord: The Church’s Original Confession” in We Confess Jesus Christ

Categories: Hermann Sasse

The Dodoma Statement: Lutherans in Tanzania Speak Out Against Homosexuality Decisions of ELCA

July 20th, 2010 5 comments

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania adopted a statement regarding decisions being made about homosexuality by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other world Lutheran churches. The statement was posted by the church to the Internet this week. Here is it.



1.1        The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT hereinafter), thanks GOD that in His immeasurable wisdom, and through His Son Jesus Christ, all believers worldwide have been joined as one body; thus, making us be in communion. In this way, we can walk together to prosper in God’s mission.

1.2        In our relationship as one body, we have co-operated in many and varied ways through both trying and undemanding issues. We were able to hold together all this time because of God’s favor, and also through our unrelenting devotion in the entire Church, in regular services, where we confess the Creed and believe in God’s Church as being One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic. Therefore any action in any church which is abnormal and non-conforming to the received and affirmed position and teachings of the church over the centuries in the whole Church of God, will inevitably produce shock and varied reaction from other churches around the world.

1.3      Currently, one such abnormal incidence, as viewed by ELCT, is the one associated with some churches – especially in Europe and America – deciding to accept same-sex marriages. The respective churches give several reasons in an effort to justify their decisions; and here we briefly make mention of only a few of such reasons.

1.3.1 They claim that church teachings on marriage, according to the Holy Scripture, are directed to “man and woman” – giving them room to decide; as opposed to the age-old interpretation, meaning that marriage is only for “man and woman”. In this way they erode the foundation, bit by bit, to weaken the authentic Biblical truth that marriage is between “man and woman” only. They introduce these “new and misguided” interpretations which negate long-held Church teachings and understanding of the Word of God dating from time immemorial. Some of the verses in the Bible that fall prey to the pundits and supporters of same-sex marriages are as follows: Gen.1: 27-28, 2:24; Mt.19:5-6a; Rom.1:26-27a and Gal.3:28.

1.3.2   And that, what is essential in marriage or other forms of matrimony is love. Provided the two love each other, they claim, such relationship is correct and legal.

1.3.3 And that the circumstances nowadays, they claim; are different from conditions and settings in biblical times as regards what is, and what is not legal in love and marriage. They further claim that the question of values, virtues and morals changes with time, places and circumstances. Such claims distort what is classified as sin to depend on where and how it is committed. In this connection they want the whole Church to adopt their view regarding love and marriage especially between same sex partners as having evolved over time. Furthermore, they claim that the church is not changing with the times; and that it is “old-fashioned” to reproach and reprimand same-sex lovers and proponents. They insist that the whole Church should shake up and move with the times, like them, in the contemporary circumstances!

1.3.4 They further claim that, marriage laws in the countries where same sex marriages are taking place have changed so much that churches in those countries would have been in dire straits if they did not follow suit to the changed laws. It is our understanding that churches in these countries fear the backlash from political or authoritative vendetta. This will imply that churches in those countries might lose their perks with authorities if they continued in this stance – refusing and rejecting legalization of same-sex marriages.

1.3.5  They further claim that the issue of relationships – marriage, love-making and other forms of copulation – is the prerogative of the affected two individuals. And that they are free to make their own decisions in these matters; and should be left alone to do so – thereby stressing personal freedom as the virtue. So, there are many reasons such as enumerated above that have surfaced through word of mouth, writings and even actions from the churches that have legalized same-sex marriages.

Read more…

The Presbterian Church-USA Moves Toward Gay Marriage and Gay Clergy

July 19th, 2010 Comments off

The Presbyterian Church USA met in its national convention recently and made some dreadful decisions, similar to those made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, on gay clergy and gay relationships. Here is a helpful interview with a leader of the leading conservative reform movements within the PCUSA.

One of the Very Best Things The Missouri Synod Did Not Do Last Week

July 19th, 2010 5 comments

Last week, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, held its national convention. I won’t bore you with all the details, they are widely available elsewhere. There was the usual election dramas, the votes on resolutions, the motions amended, the questions called, the amendments to the amendments made and seconded, and pro/con speeches, lots of videos of various work our Synod is doing, etc. All very important things, to be sure, but in my opinion, one of the most important things my church did not do last week is fundamentally change how it understands what is it to be church, that is, to be that group of believers called, gathered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments, gathered by the Good Shepherd, to hear his voice and follow him, in a specific place, in a Christian congregation.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod had before it a series of proposals prepared by a task force on structure. One of the proposals was that our church should change the way we send delegates to a national convention. The task force proposed we cut the number of delegates at national assemblies in half, but what was even more  significant than that, the delegates would be chosen on the basis of a system that would give more voice and vote to congregations with more members. Now this sounds perfectly equitable, in fact, that was one of the terms used to describe the reason for it.

But what  may be “equitable” in the eyes of political democracy, has quite nothing to do with it, at all when it comes to the Christian congregation. The point that was apparently lost on those proposing this change is that one Christian congregation is equal to any other Christian congregation. There is nothing to be considered when it comes to how many members it has.

Why? Because the Christian congregation is the visible manifestation of the body of Christ, and our Lord’s body is beautiful no matter how large or how small. There is no essential difference between any congregation, be it a congregation of 1,000 members, or 50 members. I am very glad that we did not change this around. The proposal was effectively tabled. Here is a blog post I read today that beautifully explains why the notion that a large church is somehow more deserving of more “votes” than a small congregation is so wrong.

“Oh, it’s so cute.”

The photo is of the building in which Middletown Springs Community Church, the church I pastor, gathers each week.

The quote is something I’ve heard several times — that or something like it — typically from friends and family hailing from some steamy portion of Six Flags Over Jesus where church buildings are indistinguishable from office parks or the galleria.

Our church is “cute.” Because it’s small, old, traditional. “Cute” is the backhanded compliment for those who’d never go to a “cute” church, but want you to know they admire it and perhaps even those who aren’t privileged enough to go to a church “successful” enough for a building that is big, impressive, full-service. You know, not cute, but rather “awesome.”

But our church isn’t “cute.” It’s beautiful like a bride both blemished and perfect.

Our building is just a building, but it has stood for over 200 years on the stony soil of the oldest part of our nation, the land of Christian pillars Whitefield and Edwards, of the Great Awakenings, of Puritans and patriots, of Green Mountain Boys and hundreds-of-years-old family farms. The building is just a building but it has weathered over 200 years of harsh Vermont winters, not to mention pastors strong and weak, congregations passionate and passive, spiritual ebbs and flows of Old Testament proportions. Once upon a time the church kicked out Joseph Smith’s secretary for heresy.

Our building is just a building, but it’s not just a building. It’s a symbol of the enduring evangelical presence, small but hearty, in this least-churched state in the nation, and of the endurance of the great salt-of-the-earth people who are the church that gathers in the building for which they’re called.

The gates of hell will prevail against espresso bars and KidzTowns. But not our church.

Our church is not cute. It is epic.


Categories: The Church